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African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures

Akan refers to the language of the Akan ethnic group of Ghana. It is also spoken in the central and eastern part of Cote d’Ivoire. Akan comprises three main mutually intelligible dialects: Fante, Asante Twi and Akwapim Twi. Asante Twi is the widely used.  Akan is the most widely spoken and used indigenous language in Ghana. About 44%, of Ghana’s population of about 22 million, speak Akan as first language. However, about 80% of Ghanaians speak Akan as a first and second language. It is officially recognized for literacy, at least at the lower primary (Primary 1-3) level, and studied at university as a bachelor or masters program. It is the most important indigenous language of Ghana. It is the language of the Western, Central, Ashanti, Eastern, Brong Ahafo regions, and the northern portion of the Volta region of Ghana. A form of Akan is also spoken in South America, notably Suriname and Jamaica. The language came to these places through the slave trade. Akan names and folktales are still used in these countries. With the present state of technology, one can listen to live radio broadcasts in Akan from numerous radio stations from Akan is studied in major universities in the United States, including Ohio University, Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin, Harvard University, Boston University, Indiana University, Michigan University, and The University of Florida. It has been a regular African language of study in the annual Summer Cooperative African Languages Institute (SCALI) program.


Akan belongs to the Kwa group of the Niger-Congo language family. It has some unique linguistic features like tone, vowel harmony and nasalization. Historically, the Akans migrated from the north to occupy the forest and coastal areas of the south in the thirteenth century. The Akans have been associated ethnohistorically to West African Iron Age archaeological sites and their occupants as early as the fifth century AD. They are perhaps best known in the art history world for highly symbolic artifacts of terracotta, wood and metal. They have a strong oral history tradition of their past. The complex cultural ideas of the Akans are expressed in proverbs and stories, as well as in designs such as symbols used in carvings and on clothes. The rich cultural and historic nature of the Akan people of Ghana makes it a fertile area of research for various disciplines including history, anthropology, linguistics, literary studies, and folklore. It is therefore important to study this language to understand the contributions of the Akans in these disciplines.

If you are interested in taking Akan (Twi) at Rutgers, the Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures currently offers Akan (Twi) through the Intermediate level.

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